Swedish design has become increasingly popular over the past decade, and Design House Stockholm – which just celebrated its 20th anniversary – has played a major role in sharing it with the U.S. and all over the world.
Founded by Anders Färdig, Design House Stockholm (DHS) started as a creative product development company in 1992, fostering a network of independent designers . By 1997, the DHS product collection was launched, starting with Harri Koskinen’s Block Lamp that immediately became a worldwide success. The Block Lamp has since remained a top-selling product and is represented in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) permanent design collection.
DHS has distinguished itself as a publisher of design, working in the same way with designers that publishing houses work with authors. Rather than selecting a designer to make a specific product, all designers in its cadre are invited to bring their personal ideas, some of which are selected for development and production. According to Färdig , “We look for products that add something new to their genre, products with personality and character. Our collection does not have any specified boundaries – if a product is considered good enough and realistic to produce, we develop it.” No matter if it is a mug, a chair, a couture collection, or a piece of jewelry. The ambition is to be a mirror of the very best Scandinavian design today. “The term ‘Scandinavian’ refers to a philosophic and aesthetic perspective, rather than geography and nationality. It is a collection of design classics with timeless appeal and qualities that outlives temporary trends,” he adds.
Recently DHS launched a set of Form pendant lights designed by Swedish design team: Form Us With Love (FUWL). Started in 2005 by John Löfgren, Jonas Pettersson, and Petrus Palmér, FUWL is based in Stockholm and designs everyday objects, furniture, and lighting. The Form lights are made of blown glass in a style that celebrates the light bulb with industrial shades and globes.
enLIGHTenment magazine interviewed the founders of DHS and FUWL to discuss Swedish design in general as well as their new collaboration.
EnLIGHTenment Magazine: What are the key characteristics of Swedish design?
DHS: We select products that are unique in their category, function, and design values – [ones] that make you like the product the more you use it, and design that helps the product in an interior. That does not mean that the product must scream out design, but instead help to bring harmony to the entire room.
FUWL: We are hopelessly influenced by our strong design heritage of course, but at the same time we are utterly tired of it. The result is some kind of tweaked functionalism. This is perhaps what shows in a lot of young Scandinavian designers’ work today. It’s great to see so much creativity among the young Nordic design community with an ambition to investigate new genres, materials, and expressions.
However, it is very hard to see differences between the Nordic countries. Perhaps Denmark is even more colored than Sweden with their strong design heritage of Finn Juhl, Arne Jacobsen, and Hans Wegner. Finland is still more wood, glass, and Alvar Aalto while Norway is new as a design nation and, because of that, has a very contemporary style. Sweden is very mixed and hard for us, as Swedes, to define. We think Swedish style is very different today from the perception of Scandinavian design. This is a good thing, since we can’t stay in the past forever.
EM: What makes a great lamp or lighting fixture?
DHS: We do not make something if it is not both necessary and useful – and we don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.
FUWL: Lamps are the only products we deal with that have that 4th dimension of affecting a room. By giving light, a lamp is not just another object. It is something that has the ability to change a whole environment. We think the object in itself has equal weight in relation to what kind of light it emits. Great-looking lamps are equally good to look at as well as making the surroundings look good.
EM: How did your collaboration come about?
DHS: Form Us With Love had just graduated from the design school in Kalmar where the wonderful design idea for the Cord Lamp was the result from a school experiment. After the success of Block Lamp by Harry Koskinen, we decided to try Cord Lamp. Today, both projects are design icons as good examples of Scandinavian design combining fantasy and function.
FUWL: We met with Anders Färdig in 2006 at the Stockholm Furniture Fair, where we were exhibiting in the talent zone “Greenhouse.” One of the prototypes we showed was the Cord Lamp. We had the opportunity to present it to Anders and his company (DHS) and there was immediate interest. A year of intense product development followed and the lamp was launched under the DHS flag in 2007. It was an instant success and since then we have continued to collaborate.
EM: Are either of you using any of the new technologies like CFL and LED?
DHS: We try to use the best and most appropriate technology for the purpose of what the new design shall be used for. The latest designs for DHS have been developed with LED technology.
FUWL: We work with all types of lighting technologies. There are [many] good qualities in both new and traditional light sources. In general, we encourage new techniques that improve everyday life.
EM: Where can Americans find DHS and FUWL products?
DHS: At museum stores such as New York and San Francisco’s MoMa as well as specialty retailers.